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Center Right? Not So Fast….. December 1, 2008

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Democrats, National Politics, Republicans.
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Watching President-Elect Obama’s cabinet take shape has been particularly painful for a bluer-than-blue Democrat like me.  I was really hoping for Obama to shake things up – and appoint a more Progressive-leaning inner circle than he seems to be doing.  Today’s anticipated announcement of the national security team only further serves to stress me out.  There is not one truly liberal voice on the entire roster.  In addition to “the Hill” herself, there is Clintonista Eric Holder, and the hawkish duo of Jim Jones and Bob Gates. 

The pundits on the right are nodding approvingly at the appointments, saying that Obama is realizing that we are a “center-right” country and lefties are apparently NOT taking over the government.  “Obama has come to the necessary realization that he just can’t govern this country from the left,” opined Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC show “Morning Joe”.  But are we really a “center-right” country?

I would agree that most Americans, in politics as in anything else, are more comfortable in the center – not taking extreme positions on anything.  They will generally lean left on some issues, right on others, but they mostly want to take a measured view of the world.  I think that is why we have seen such a growth in affiliation as “Independents”.  The idea, however, that Americans generally lean to the right is an incorrect reading of the mood of the American people.  Paul Waldman explained it best in the April 2008 American Prospect:  “Since Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril’s 1964 book The Political Beliefs of Americans, political scientists have known that as a group Americans are “symbolic conservatives” but “operational liberals.” In other words, if you ask them whether they’d define themselves as conservative or liberal, most choose conservative; but if you ask them about what they want government to do about specific issues and problems, most choose the liberal solution, i.e. that government should do more and spend more.” 

More and more people have been actually identifying themselves as Democrats these days.  A combination of the sheer incompetence of this last administration, the realization that the middle class is shrinking and in danger, the severe inequity of wealth distribution, the numbers of citizens with no health care, and a “conservative” economy that’s in the toilet has served to push Americans leftward.  This change in identification gave Democrats real advantages in the 2006 election and had enormous influence over this one.  Additionally, long-term trends – the growth of the hispanic population, a growth in a younger electorate, a more educated and technologically savvy electorate – all seem to favor Democrats and Progressives.

The efforts of the right to deny the leftward drift of the American people is an effort to minimize the reality that the Conservative message is not playing these days.  While Americans are not turning into wild-eyed Marxists, they are turning away from voting against their own best interests.  And that means turning to the left.

The Republicans have enjoyed a slight affiliation advantage for many years and in the last eight used the slimmest of majorities to cram its agenda down the throat of every American.  It’s time that the Democrats and Barack Obama utilize their much larger advantage to the betterment of America.  And that means “center-left”.

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1. Democratic America, Goverment and Election » Center Right? Not So Fast….. - December 1, 2008

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